Dining on Commercial Drive

Tasting Plates Vancouver

The cooler at Via Tevere as part of Tasting Plates Vancouver, June 19 2013. Photo credit: Shawn Conner.

The East Vancouver neighbourhood of Commercial Drive is home to a great number of restaurants. Some have been around for decades, a result of the area’s Italian roots, others have sprung up in recent years.

This week, local food blogger Richard Wolak took several dozen people on a tour of some of the eateries in the area. As the publisher of the foodie website Vancouver Foodster, Wolak organizes Tasting Plates tours of different Vancouver neighbourhoods several times a year. Here are some of what we experienced on an overcast but not rainy June evening.

Our first stop was Via Tevere, located just a few blocks east of Commercial at 1190 Victoria Drive. It’s one of the most popular restaurants in a neighbourhood with no shortage of pizza joints, from dollar-slice holes-in-the-wall to mainstays like Lombardo’s (in the Il Mercato mall on Commercial and 1st). Via Tevere’s main selling point, besides an old-world ambience, is its Napoletana-style pizza – as the backs of the staff’s T-shirts noted, it’s only one of a few hundred restaurants recognized as authentic by the overseeing body Associazone Vera Pizza Napoletana. Unsurprisingly, both pizza slice samples – the Margherita and the meaty Capricciosa – were delicious.

Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Plates tours aren’t restricted to restaurants, and so we found ourselves at a Commercial Drive butcher, Pasture to Plate (1420 Commercial Drive). There, we sampled four different hors-d’oeuvres made with different P2P meats, which come from a farm in the B.C. interior. I have to admit, I was so hungry at this point I more or less just wolfed these down, although I did note that the one with caramelized onions was particularly tasty.

This blogger lives in the area, and I pass by Gelateria Dolce Amore (1590 Commercial Drive) nearly every day without stopping in. So I was more than happy to make the move through the doorway and actually try a couple of samples; both the hazelnut and roasted strawberry scoops left me wanting more, as well as wanting to try some of the many other flavours offered by the authentic gelateria.

For this wannabe vegetarian, Indian food is a favourite, and Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen (2066 Commercial Drive) is a continuing temptation. We were as impressed by the decor, including a large painting of a blue buddha, as we were by the chicken goliya and potato cake.

Siddhartha's Indian Kitchen,  June 19 2013. Photo credit: Shawn Conner.

Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen, June 19 2013. Photo credit: Shawn Conner.

We end (there were two other restaurants on the itinerary, one of which we didn’t get to in time) the adventure with where we started out: Prado Cafe (1938 Commercial Drive). The location was where we came at the start of the evening to register our tickets (Tasting Plates tickets range in price from $22.50 – $45, depending on how early you register) to receive our official card, necessary to get a plate at each stop. We had a non-sugary iced tea and half a gluten-free cookie, and more or less called it a night.

Looking over the seven stops included in this Tasting Plate expedition, it’s worth noting they represent a mere fraction of the many restaurants on the Drive (for instance, there are nearly a dozen sushi joints alone). One of the pleasures of Tasting Plates, I discovered, was not only talking to others on the tour but also curious passersby who stopped to ask why all these cardholding people were standing outside various locations. One woman, who was obviously carrying groceries home to cook, even doubled back to recommend one of her favourite Commercial haunts, a relatively recent arrival called Absinthe Bistro (1260 Commercial Drive). I’ll definitely be checking that one out soon.

Visit Vancouver Foodster for more information about upcoming Vancouver food events, including the next Tasting Plates (July 23 in North Vancouver).  Follow Vancouver Foodster on Twitter at @VanFoodster.


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